Along Spring St., pizzas by candle, funeral by flashlight


By Lincoln Anderson

Shortly after the electricity was cut at 4:11 p.m. last Thursday, Downtown avenues were awash with rivers of workers flowing north and south. For those whose home is not Downtown the task at hand was to get back Uptown, to the boroughs or New Jersey.

Auto traffic on major arteries like Canal St. was snarled even worse than usual; cars came to a virtual standstill as the tunnels were initially closed.

A man who gave his name as Ravi was waving his hand over his head amid the bumper-to-bumper gridlock at Spring and Varick Sts. near the Holland Tunnel. Asked if he was directing traffic he laughed, “Something like that.” His car was a bit farther up; he felt at least he could be doing something of use while they were stuck.

Instead of rushing home immediately, some took the opportunity to regroup, like the employees of PMCD Design at 484 Greenwich St., who were sitting on the stoop together. They had been busily working on corrections for a graphic for ABC in Los Angeles and getting ready to post it on the Web and discuss it over the phone with L.A.

“It kind of puts things into perspective,” said creative director Patrick McDonough. “We thought these revisions were really important. Now, everyone has to be accounted for. It’ll all get done….”

Sisters Alice Se and Maria Se were among a group plunked down on the curb waiting for an empty M-6 bus to take them Uptown. They had trudged up from Wall St.

“I can’t walk no more,” Alice said in frustration. “They don’t even stop. They say, ‘Next Bus Please.’ ”

George Bliss of the Hub Station on Broome St., with a female companion, walking their dogs, said all 35 of his pedicabs were on the streets. Like after 9/11, bicycle taxis were in demand.

“We didn’t raise our rates,” Bliss said. “But that won’t stop the cabs and cars from charging more.”

Stuck in token booth

At the Spring St. A/C/E subway station, two female Transit Police officers guarded the entranceway. Downstairs, the token booth clerk was still manning his post following procedure. With a flashlight, one of the officers escorted a reporter into the darkened station.

“We got to take care of all this money. You can’t leave it,” the token booth clerk said, declining to give his name.

Train operator Gregory Pitkouvitch was smoking upstairs, his E train sitting lifeless in the tunnel.

“Now and then I’ll go down and check on it,” he said. “Some homeless guy might want to sleep in there.” He probably didn’t have to worry too much as homeless people could probably find cooler places.

Speaking of beating the heat, ice cream was selling briskly. Anna Morgan was dispensing cones from a Kustard King truck on Broadway. A salesperson at the Enchanted Forest toy store, she came over after the power outage to help her friend sell the cold stuff. Asked how business was around 6 p.m., she said, flashing a grin, “We’re almost out of ice cream.”

Huge night for pizza

Pizza was another popular food option, mainly because, as customers waiting on line at Ben’s Pizzeria on Spring St. explained, ATM’s weren’t working and credit cards couldn’t be used in restaurants — manual credit card swipers having been replaced by electronic ones.

Luckily the pizzeria’s gas ovens were functioning as Joey, working by candlelight, kneaded clumps of dough into pie after pie.

“Three hundred I make already,” he said. The wait for a pie was an hour.

Paul Vlachos, a Bank St. resident, was going to get some slices with a friend at Ray’s Pizza on Prince St.

“I’m going to call this the Night of Eating Pizza, or the Night People Ate Pizza…,” Vlachos mused

Most restaurants were shut. In the few that remained open, candlelight dining took on new meaning.

At Natural Grocery at Spring and Lafayette Sts., an employee stood at the door with a flashlight trained on shoppers, who he only let in in spurts. Asked why he was doing that, he didn’t answer, his attention focused inside the store.

“Keeping an eye on ’em,” noted someone waiting on line outside.

Praying for light

In Little Italy, outside Guidetti funeral home, relatives of Pat Grosso, a lifelong Mott St. resident, were sitting on folding chairs on the darkening sidewalk. Tina Renna, Grosso’s niece, said six family members had shone flashlights onto the ceiling to illuminate the parlor while the priest worked the blackout into his sermon. “He said, ‘She’s in the light — and we’re waiting to get into the light.’ ”

A familiar neighborhood figure, a robotics whiz was sitting in front of his building, an 1888 horse stable on Elizabeth St. the windows of which he decorated with white pin lights. A friend came up and animatedly asked him if he had invented a generator.

“That was one invention I didn’t get to!” laughed the man, who a friend called J.T.

Telly Wong and George Liu, both 26, were sitting in beach chairs on the Bowery, listening to radio reports while a flood of humanity hustled by towards the East River bridges.

“It’s just surreal,” said Wong.

Freed from Matrix

Others looked at the darkness philosophically. Perched atop a mailbox at Delancey and Chrystie Sts., Karl Guerre, 33, was tapping away at his laptop. Looking a bit like Bob Marley with his long dreadlocks, he was waiting for the crowds to thin before trying the Williamsburg Bridge. He said he was observing a lot about people’s behavior.

“Yeah, it’s no rush,” he said. “About half of them have no survival skills. After all is said and done, they’ll forget that they didn’t need all these so-called necessities and they’ll go back to their all-American life — go through life in The Matrix.”

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